Chinese businessman new owner of Australian football club

Canberra, June 14 (IANS) Chinese multi-millionaire Martin Lee was on Tuesday announced as the new owner of an A-League football club, the Newcastle Jets.

After months of negotiations, Lee and his Ledman Group — a major LED lighting manufacturer — have reportedly bought the Jets for $4.1 million. This is the first major Chinese investment in the A-League’s 11-year history, reports Xinhua.

The Jets are one of 10 teams who make up Australia’s premier men’s football league – the Hyundai A-League – and are governed by the Football Federation Australia (FFA).

The Jets have been under the FFA’s ownership since May last year, after former owner Nathan Tinkler’s licence was terminated. Lee was named on Tuesday as the Jets’ fourth owner in just 11 years.

Lee is the president and chief executive of Chinese company Ledman Optoelectronics. The company was valued at $1.04 billion on the Chinese stock exchange.

The Ledman group already owns Chinese lower-tier club Shenzhen Renren FC, sponsors of the Chinese Super League and is the naming-rights sponsor for Portugal’s second division.

At his media conference in Newcastle, Lee said he was excited about the future of the Jets.

“We see a bright future for football across Asia and the Hyundai A-League is at the forefront as one of the top professional leagues in the region,” he said.

“The investment aligns with Ledman’s activities in several sectors of the sports industry and I’m excited by the potential of the club.”

Another strong focus is that Lee will continue to work with the Newcastle community.

“Most of all, I understand that the Newcastle Jets are a very important part of the Newcastle community. I want to work closely with everyone in Newcastle, the fans, members and the local football community, to make this club the best it can be.”

Lee is expected to travel to Newcastle every two months and will have his local management team oversee and run the Jets.

Jets coach Scott Miller has several roster spots remaining, including two visa openings, but is said to be waiting for inputs from a new owner before filling them.

The Jets have appeared in the Asian Champions League once before in 2009, and won their first and only championship in the A-League in the 2007-08 season.

FFA CEO David Gallop said he was impressed by Ledman’s plans for the Jets.

“I’m pleased that from the outset community engagement and football development in Newcastle and northern NSW have been top priorities for Ledman,” Gallop said.

“This move is significant for the way it demonstrates the Hyundai A-League’s multiple connections to Asia,” he added.



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